BY GREG FOSTER ON OCTOBER 31, 2016
Lord Storey, Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson in the House of Lords, has forced the Government to back down from calling a vote to defend their recent changes to the school census. Lord Storey tabled a regret motion against the changes, introduced this year, which will require parents or teachers to submit information on whether children are born in the UK.
The Government have proposed that the new school census should include data on the country where pupils are born, and are asking parents to submit this. If parents opt out of providing the data, it has been reported that teachers will be required to “ascribe” an ethnicity to those pupils. The Liberal Democrats and civil liberties campaigners fear the Home Office could use the database to identify foreign-born families, or match the findings to its immigration database.
Although the Department for Education say that this information will not be accessible to the Home Office, Freedom of Information data shows police forces and the Home Office have been handed information from the National Pupil Database in the past.
The Liberal Democrats have always believed that this is a deeply concerning proposal, made all the more so because it was passed without any Parliamentary debate.
Commenting, Lord Storey said:
“It is deeply concerning that the Government are creating a vast database of children’s nationalities without giving any reason why it is needed.”
“If this information could help them provide better educational support, that would be one thing – but the Government have failed to give any evidence that this would be the case.”
“In the context of the Government’s offensive anti-immigration rhetoric, and policies like asking firms to report the number of foreign staff they employ, I’m extremely worried that this is just another way for them to make people who live and work in the UK, but were not born here, feel unwelcome.”
“My colleagues and I forced the Government to roll over and let our regret motion pass. They are clearly not willing to defend this deeply illiberal policy and we have dealt a blow to the dangerous and divisive policies of this Conservative Government.”